Sunday, November 28, 2010

Down At Mrs. Woody's

Mrs. Woody was Sam's grandmother. Both Sam and his mother moved in with Mrs. Woody when they first came to Williston. Now, those of you who know anything about Sam can imagine how much he enjoyed living with both his mother and his grandmother even as a little boy. He loves them both dearly, but they never were the type to let you get away with a lot. Because of that we all spent a great deal of time at my house. My Dad would let us do pretty much whatever we wanted provided that it wasn't unchristian or overly dangerous. (Sam's mother, Ms. Pat, felt like Dad knew what he was doing, so if he let us do something she never said much about it.)

Of course there were days when we were simply sick of hanging around my house or when Sam was on restriction and couldn't go anywhere but could receive company. On those days we all ended up over at Mrs. Woody's. We would often play on the road right beside her house. At the time skateboarding was a big deal and half the neighborhood would turn out to hang around skateboarding up and down the road. When we did that we always had to be on the lookout for Mrs. Woody.

I never felt like she could see very well, at least when driving. Sam said that she could see perfectly and that she simply wanted to kill us. Whatever the truth was you had to watch out when she was driving around in the neighborhood. Her driveway was on a bit of a hill and she had to back up in order to get out on the road. Every time she went anywhere you would hear the squeal of tires and see the smoke of burning rubber billowing up above her car.

As soon as her car touched the road she would whip the wheel around and slam her foot on the gas. It was even worse if she was coming into the neighborhood from a trip to town. You wouldn't get the warning signs that got when she was pulling out. Suddenly Mrs. Woody's car would be there flying down the road at full speed making strait for her driveway. More than once I dove into the bushes at the side of the road to keep from being hit.

I'm sure she never noticed. She would park and start carrying in groceries or whatever it was she had gone to town to get without so much as looking in our direction. I wouldn't have let any three-year-olds play on any road she was going to drive on, but all of us were old enough to know to get out of the way. We didn't spend all our time playing in the road either, so most of the time it didn't come up.

Her trailer was actually setup on a piece of property that belonged to her son Mr. Elbert. We spent many childhood days running around in that yard. It was right beside one of Mr. Folk's cow pastures and Mr. Elbert had a pool we were allowed to swim in during the summer. He also had a giant spool setup in the yard that was like a table for us kids. He had gotten it from the electric company or something like that. Over the years the spool rotted away and became two giant wooden wheels.

One day we decided to put one of the wheels to use. We thought it would be a good tool with which to cure our boredom. The idea was that we would get the wheel rolling down the hill and then each one of us would kick it until it fell over. At first the game went well and each of us got a chance to knock it down. As each round of wheel knocking passed we let it roll further down the hill. The further it rolled the faster it got and the faster it got the harder it was to knock over.

The last round arrived and we let it roll. Josh kicked it and it didn't fall. I kicked it and it didn't fall. Sam kicked it and it didn't fall. It ignored our attacks and kept rolling down the hill increasing it's speed with every rotation. We declared a free for all and everyone began kicking it with everything they had. The wheel wobbled, but it didn't fall down. Sam attempted to salvage the situation with one mad flying jump kick.

The wheel had already outdistanced most of us, but Sam managed to run it down. He threw everything he had into a single beautiful kick. He hit it right at the the top and then fell onto the grass. The spinning wheel leaned over as if it where about to collapse, but then gyroscopic forces pulled it up again as it continued rolling down the hill. There was no way to stop it, it had gotten too far ahead of us. We could only stand and watch.

It rolled faster and faster and was headed strait toward Mr. Elbert's shed. We were all yelling for the wheel to turn or fall over or something, but it ignored us and rolled on. At the end there was the crunch of wooden siding being crushed as the wheel struck the shed and stuck into the wall. The game ended with a result that none of us had expected. The wheel won...

Sam knew we were in trouble, so he decided we needed to get to work immediately to fix everything. (Keep in mind we were ten or eleven at the time.) We pulled the wheel out of the wall and rolled it back up the hill. Then we took lawn chairs and bits of wood, whatever we could find in or around the yard, and piled it all up against the side of the shed. When we were done we felt very good. There was a five foot pile of junk leaned against the wall and the long gash in the siding was completely hidden.

We were all a little surprised by the fact that as soon as Mr. Elbert saw our pile he instantly looked behind it. It amazed us all that a pile of junk piled against the shed made him suspicious. Having made the discovery he gave Sam a few good ones with his belt and then called my Papa to advise him to do the same to us. (Josh and I had gone over there after we left Mrs. Woody's. The two trailers were about a hundred feet apart, but Papa had a small pine wood that separated the two properties.) For some reason Mr. Elbert's suggestion incensed Papa and, although he and Mr. Elbert were great neighbors and good friends, Papa told him to mind his own business. Lucky for us, we only got a verbal warning. Of course, that was enough we never did it again.

In point of fact we were never really up to any mischief. I mean to say that we never meant to be up to no good, we were just trying to find things to do. Had we imagined for a minute that we would have smashed a hole in Mr. Elbert's shed we would never have played with the wheel. Our real problem was that we didn't think far enough ahead.

My family knew this and, in general, let us pretty much do what we wanted. Sam's family was a little different. They always suspected us of being up to much more than we were. By the time Sam was a teenager Mrs. Woody began to suspect him of dealing drugs or something like that. She kept a very steady eye on him and checked up on him whenever possible. As Sam lived with her it was very possible most of the time. I know she was just looking out for him and trying to keep him out of trouble, but it got on Sam's nerves.

Finally Sam and Josh decided to put a stop to it. Every time Josh called Sam's house Mrs. Woody would put Sam on the phone and then go into a different room and pick up the other extension so she could hear what they were saying. Whenever Sam asked her about it she would say she hadn't been listening. However, her hearing wasn't great and she couldn't tell she was breathing loudly into the phone every time she was listening in. She thought she was as quiet as could be as she made a myriad of little noises in the other room.

This eavesdropping was the opportunity Sam intended to use for his humorous revenge. The phone rang and Mrs. Woody picked it up as usual. It was Josh calling Sam, so she handed the phone over to him and left the room. A moment later they heard the extension get picked up and Mrs. Woody's slow steady breathing on the other line. The stage was set and they began:

“Did it come in?” Sam asked with a certain urgency in his voice.

“Not yet, but it's supposed to tonight.” Josh replied

“Full shipment?”

“It's supposed to be.”

“Good. Who's bringing it in?”

“Same as always.”

“Excellent. We can meet them tonight and start breaking it up for distribution.”

“How are you going to get out of the house?”

“Sneak out, what else.”

“What about the old lady?”

“What about her?”

“I mean, what if she gets in the way.”

“I guess we'll just have to rub her out.”

Here they heard the phone in the other room slam down. Needless to say, Mrs. Woody never listened in on their conversations again. I know it seems cruel, but Mrs. Woody could drive people up the wall. As Sam himself pointed out, if she wasn't lying about being on the phone then they didn't scare her at all. It was some other eavesdropper who was having the heart palpitations.

It's only been a few years ago that Mrs. Woody went the way of all flesh. Now other family members live in the home that was once her own. They have no idea what wild adventures took place just outside their door, just as I have no idea what happened outside my own door a hundred years ago. The lives we live truly are like smoke. They can be seen for a little while and then they are gone. Although I know in time all these things will be forgotten it makes me feel good to know that they are not forgotten yet. You only have a little while to write things in the sand. Write something worth remembering.

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